“What is it that people really want?” Stacy Mitchell, Co-Director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, posed at an event hosted by the Center for Political Economy, Columbia Law School, and the Financial Times. Humans have survived for millennia based on our ability to work together to serve each other’s needs. “Community,” Stacy posits, “is a deeply held biological and spiritual need.”
The event, “Rethinking Globalization, Intermediation, and Efficiency,” gathered journalists, academics, and advocates to explore new paradigms for a post-neoliberal world. Stacy explained how neoliberalism has “actively demeaned and destroyed communities as self-conscious and self-governing places. It has stripped places of their economic and political power and it has rendered them subservient to distant entities,” namely powerful corporations.
Our new framework should see “communities as the building blocks of democracy.” She continues, “if neoliberalism turned people into subjects, we should look to create the kinds of communities that cultivate people’s capacity to be citizens.” For this to unfold, we must build a political economy at the local level that fosters peoples’ capacity for collective decision-making, shared responsibility, and stewardship.
After talking about the federal policies needed to do this, Stacy ends her talk by pointing to two states that offer concrete examples of what this approach looks like in practice. Notably, they are also two states that are vastly different politically: Vermont and North Dakota. Vermont has more small businesses per capita than any state in the nation because they have aggressive state-wide land use policies. North Dakota, because of its ban on chain pharmacies, has more pharmacies per capita than any other state in the U.S. and has among the lowest prescription drug prices.
“What is a paradigm that can capture the full spectrum of people? What is going to translate across political lines?” Community, Stacy argued, is the foundational basis for this paradigm shift.
Stacy spoke as part of a panel that included Zephyr Teachout of Fordham Law School, Ganesh Sitaraman of Vanderbilt Law School, and Lori Wallach of the American Economic Liberties Project. That panel starts at 4:46:03:00. A full run of show can be found here.